BOSTON – After watching Carolina goalie Cam Ward dominate three straight games and push Boston to the brink of elimination, it was Tim Thomas’ turn to take control of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Bruins goalie stopped 19 shots for his first playoff shutout as Boston kept their season going with a 4-0 victory over the Hurricanes in Game 5 on Sunday night.
“Timmy deserved the kind of night he had tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He’s been peppered with a lot of shots in the games before that. Maybe his teammates felt they owed it to him, to give him an easier night. They did a great job in front of him.”
Phil Kessel scored twice, Milan Lucic had a goal and an assist, and Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard each had a pair of assists for Boston, which was on the verge of an early summer after losing three in a row. Chara also gave Boston a big emotional lift when he came back from a second-period slashing by Jussi Jokinen.
“It was the only option we had, being down 3-1 and at home in front of our fans,” Chara said. “But we are in the same situation and are fighting for another day.”
Ward made 36 saves for the Hurricanes, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. Game 6 is at Carolina on Tuesday.
“We get to go back home in front of our fans and hopefully get the job done in six,” said Eric Staal, who had four goals in the previous three games but just three shots and a minus-3 in Game 5. “We need to regroup and forget it.”
Thomas had a career-high five shutouts in the regular season, when he led the NHL with a 2.10 goals-against average and became a Vezina Trophy finalist. But it had been Ward who dominated the series, allowing three goals as the Hurricanes responded to a Game 1 loss with three straight victories.
Chara took a stick to the left shin from Jokinen in the final minute of the second period. After laying on the ice for a few minutes, he skated off on his own but didn’t return for the start of the third.
“My heart skipped a beat when he was down because I know he doesn’t fake things – ever,” Thomas said.
When Chara came onto the bench shortly after the faceoff, the crowd began chanting “Cha-ra!” And when he slipped over the dasher boards with 19:12 to play, the fans stood.
“We all have to make sacrifices. It’s nothing unusual,” Chara said.
An Original Six team that has not won the Stanley Cup since Bobby Orr skated around the ice with it in 1972, the Bruins entered the playoffs with the best record in the East and swept Montreal in the first round. But they have struggled against Carolina, a team they beat in all four regular-season meetings, losing three times by a combined score of 10-3 to fall to the brink of elimination.
Boston needs to win the next two to stay alive in a tournament that has already claimed the San Jose Sharks, the No. 1 overall seed.
“They did a good job coming back and being ready to play, as we expected,” Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said. “And we’re going to have the same challenge.”
The Bruins came out with a more physical lineup, subbing Shawn Thornton for rookie Blake Wheeler, and immediately took charge. Carolina didn’t have a shot in the first 11:04, and the Hurricanes were outshot 40-19 overall.
Milan Lucic helped set up the first goal with a crunching check on Dennis Seidenberg late in the first period. When Seidenberg responded, he drew a slashing penalty. Just seven seconds into the power play, Mark Recchi redirected Chara’s shot past Ward to break a scoreless tie.
Kessel scored twice in the second period, both times assisted by Savard, to give Boston a 3-0 lead. Lucic made it 4-0 in the third.
Notes: Four of the five games have been decided by at least three goals. … Boston has never won a playoff series in which it trailed 3-1. The only time the Bruins forced a seventh game was against Montreal in the first round last season. … Boston has never lost a playoff series to the Hartford/Carolina franchise. … The Bruins gave out yellow towels for fans to wave, but several were thrown at Hurricanes defenceman Joni Pitkanen in the penalty box in the third period. … Julien said Aaron Ward might have a broken orbital bone after being punched by Scott Walker near the end of the game. Walker was given a misconduct, a fighting major and an instigator penalty.